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Shopping Guide for Best Wireless Earbuds

With the progress of technology ever marching forward, there's no reason why you shouldn't trade in your regular headphones for a good pair of wireless earbuds.

Deciding to buy some wireless earbuds is the easy part — now you have to figure out which pair is right for you. And with so many makes and models on the market, this can be more of a challenge than you might think.

If you're feeling confused or overwhelmed by all the choices available to you, you're in the right place. At BestReviews, it's our mission to cut through the jargon and help you, the consumer, pick the best products to fit your needs. We test items in our labs, consult experts, and gather data and opinions from existing customers.

The result is the fair and thorough analysis you see before you. So, read on to discover more about wireless earbuds and how to select your perfect pair.

The term "earbuds" refers to in-ear headphones, as opposed to the type that sit over your ears.

Why Go Wireless?

If you're still not quite convinced, here are some of the reasons why we think wireless earbuds are the bee's knees:

  • Wireless earbuds are more convenient, as you never have to worry about detangling headphone wires again.

  • One of the leading reasons headphones stop working is due to a loose connection where the wire meets the earbuds or the input jack — therefore, wireless headphones tend to keep going for much longer.

  • Since you're not constrained by wires, you're free to wander around and still listen to your music on wireless headphones anywhere in the house (range permitting).

  • Many users find wireless earbuds less cumbersome, especially for exercising, when the wires may get in your way.

DID YOU KNOW?

Modern wireless earbuds are free from some of the problems that plagued earlier models, such as short battery life and poor audio quality.

Considerations for Selecting Wireless Earbuds

Considerations

Noise Isolation

Unless you'll only ever use your headphones alone in a quiet home, we recommend a pair of wireless earbuds with noise isolation.

Earbuds with noise isolation have a special seal that helps block out ambient noise. It’s a priceless feature if you use your earbuds walking down a loud street, on public transport, in a noisy gym, or basically anywhere that's not close to silent.

Active noise cancelling headphones differ from noise isolating headphones, as they electronically cancel actual ambient sound waves, rather than just blocking them out. It's rare to find true noise cancelling wireless earbuds, but some noise isolating models are labelled as such.

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Considerations

Battery Life

Unlike regular earbuds, wireless models need to be charged.

Battery life varies, but generally ranges between 8 and 12 hours. We have found a few models that last up to 16 hours between charges.

Check the product specification for the battery life of the earbuds you're considering.

EXPERT TIP

We recommend selecting wireless earbuds that have a battery life that lasts you a full working day. So, if you're regularly out of the home ten hours a day, a pair with an eight hour battery life isn't going to cut it.


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Considerations

Comfort

Nobody wants earbuds that are awkward or uncomfortable to wear, but this is a particular concern if you use them for extended periods of time.

Without trying them on, the best way to gauge whether or not a pair of wireless earbuds are comfortable is the check out reviews from people who already own the product.

You can find wireless earbuds with built-in heart rate sensors, and even accelerometers that help you track exercise and physical activity.
Considerations

Audio Quality

Of course, one of the most important things about a pair of earbuds is audio quality — although whether or not it's your primary concern probably depends on what you listen to, and how much of an audiophile you are.

Some people can barely tell the difference between a $20 pair of headphones and a $200 pair — and that's fine — but others can't stand to listen to their favorite albums on poor-quality speakers.

What's more, if you'll mostly be listening to music, audio quality will be more of a concern than if you primarily use them for TV or audiobooks.

EXPERT TIP

A few high-end models of wireless earbuds come with apps that allow you to fine-tune your listening experience.


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Considerations

Range

The range of your wireless earbuds refers to how far you can go from the audio source before the signal cuts out.

Depending on the type of signal used, the range can be anywhere between 30 and 300 feet.

If you use them on the go, the audio source is likely to be a smartphone, tablet, or other small device that you can carry with you, so range isn't as big a concern. Whereas at home, you may be using your earbuds to listen to your stereo, so you'll likely want a longer range.

DID YOU KNOW?

Many Bluetooth wireless earbuds contain a microphone, so you can also take calls if you're using them to listen to music or other audio on your smartphone.

Wireless Earbud Prices

Wireless earbuds come at a wide range of price points to suit a variety of budgets. Here's what you can expect to get for your money.

Price

Basic

$15 to $50 will get you a basic set of wireless earbuds from an unknown brand.

While pairs at this price will do the job, don't expect much in the way of audio quality or durability.

You'll be pleased to know wireless earbuds are much more affordable now, compared to when the technology was new, so you won't have to sell off your silverware to afford a pair.

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Price

Mid-range

$50 to $100 buys a mid-range pair of wireless earbuds.

In this price range you can find some gems that will be perfectly good for all but the must meticulous of audiophiles.

Price

High-end

$100 to $400 pays for high-end wireless earbuds; well-respected brands with the kind of sound quality that will impress even the most hardened critics.

DID YOU KNOW?

If you're worried about losing your earbuds, make sure they're connected in some way.

Tips

  • Some wireless earbuds can still be used while they're charging, a feature many users find useful.

  • Look for wireless Bluetooth earbuds that use aptX technology, as this gives you better audio quality than standard Bluetooth.

  • Wireless earbuds with foam tips sometimes have interchangeable tips that come in a few sizes, so you can get a better fit.

  • You can find earbuds that come with various accessories, such as carrying cases or pouches.

  • Some wireless earbuds have built-in control buttons, allowing you to skip tracks or adjust volume from the headphones, rather than the audio device.

  • If you choose wireless earbuds with active noise cancelling, they're likely to have a shorter battery life than those without — but some models allow you to switch active noise cancelling on or off, depending on your needs. This can help preserve battery life when it's quiet enough not to need this function.

  • You can find wireless earbuds with active EQ, which automatically equalize music as you listen. Others allow you to adjust the EQ via an app.

If you'll be exercising while wearing your wireless earbuds, look for a pair with a slip-proof fit, so they won't fall out of your ears with vigorous movement.

FAQ

Q. What devices can I listen to with my wireless earbuds?

A. You can listen to almost any audio-transmitting device with your wireless earbuds — from televisions to iPads to stereos — but depending on your earbuds and how they work, you may need some extra equipment. Some wireless earbuds come with a radio frequency transmitter that plugs into the headphone jack of an audio device. Other earbuds are designed to work with Bluetooth-enabled devices only, such as tablets and smartphones, but you purchase Bluetooth transmitters separately, so you can listen to devices that don't have built-in Bluetooth.

Q. Are wireless earbuds water resistant?

A. Some wireless earbuds are water resistant, which is handy if you use them outside in wet weather, or if you wear them while working out and are worried about damaging them with your sweat. Be cautious, however, of the difference between waterproof, water resistant, and splash resistant. Waterproof earbuds could be used swimming or in the shower, for instance, whereas splash resistant models can deal with some moisture, but would break if fully submerged.

Q. How can I avoid losing one of my pair of wireless earbuds?

A. The very nature of wireless earbuds is that they don't need to be attached to one another. But, since they're so small, it's easy to misplace one of them. Some manufacturers have decided to tackle this issue by attaching the two together with a cord that sits around the back of your head while you're wearing them.

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